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U.S. Payrolls Beat Forecasts as Unemployment Falls: Economy

Payroll growth in the U.S. beat forecasts in December and the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level in almost three years as the economy gained strength heading into 2012.

The 200,000 increase followed a revised 100,000 gain in November that was smaller than first estimated, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 8.5 percent, while hours worked and earnings climbed.